Finding a Voice – Interview with Visionist

Visionist (Louis Carnell) cuts a cool figure as he slumps towards me in a hotel lobby for our intended interview. It is not just the new addition of the beard or his impressive shirt that is responsible for this impression, but his whole demeanour. He is cool, calm and collected, even with the mysterious activities going on in a neighbouring room. We’re both intrigued but while if I’m reluctant to question these types of situations, Louis is curious. I thought I better distract him with our immanent interview before we find ourselves in some dire situation. After all, my curiosity revolves around the mysteries of the Visionist.

The Grime producer has been in the spotlight for a while now and the recent insurgence of his genre’s popularity has only aided in his current trajectory. He is however adamant that it’s not solely the genre’s current trend that is responsible for his recent success, but rather an appreciation for his productions’ content. “It has definitely helped, but if this is a phase, I am not going to be caught in a phase. There are always those other people that are taking it as music, rather than putting it in a box”. It is this attitude that has made the Visionist moniker stand out from any other in his field and 2013 was definitely his year. He attributes this to various circumstances like, “going to New York” and taking on an agent who’s “part of Leisure System”, which put out the first of a string releases in 2013 from the producer. But the defining characteristic was writing in a Visionist idiom. “The thing for me, was writing music that I actually wanted to write. Doing things I had all the control in.” I believed the first instance of this control came in the form of the Crying Angles EP, but Louis soon corrects me. “I actually wrote a lot of the tunes on the Lit City one before I did that. I was using the vocals and I had the idea to just write some original Grime tracks just using those melodies. I guess it was just a taster to what was coming”

It definitely was. It was a new friendship with Lit City label Boss, Jamie Nelson that changed everything for him apparently. The releases have come in thick and fast since then, starting with the Snakes EP and culminating on the recent Ramp EP, M/Secrets. There has been a definite sound holding all these together and I am interested in how his productions are conceived. “I mainly do it on the fly, but sometimes I have an idea or I’ll write something and then the idea will progress. Like the Lit City EP, I tried to use my techniques along with the certain genre’s I listen to.” I know that he is an avid follower of the Tri Angle label and has even submitted ideas to friend and label boss, Robin Carolan. I wonder if this ever attributed anything to his recent productions with their broody harmonies fore grounded by pitched vocals. I find that this sound has at least developed since his first release, Mr.67 and the producer agrees to some extent. “I’ve always liked using vocals, but the difference Is, I’ve taken that to the forefront. I think my music has always been dark but it is more emotive now. I just came into my own. I got to a point where I was going to write tracks for myself. Before, it was always about whether labels were interested and unconsciously; I was writing tracks for labels. I don’t think that worked”

Fortunately for his listening public, he soon found his own voice and abstained from releasing anything on even his own labels. He focused all his attention on his own work for a while and unfortunately that meant that casualties were inevitable. His own label, 92 Points have released some excellent artists, but Louis tells me that he is no longer part of that label. It seems the sacrifice was not only a result of extended focus on his work, but also about maintaining friendships. “I left 92 Points shortly after the Alex Coulton release and there hasn’t been a release since. We are all still friends but if I stayed there might have been bad blood. So I left to keep the Friendships.” Since then he has focussed all of his business attention on Lost Codes, which he reserves solely for other artists “I’ve just done a remix for every other release”. It is an undeniable indication of impeccable self-control, an admirable trait in any label owner. Even his Crying Angels EP, he tells me, was released through bandcamp and not through this channel.

It was however while still in 92 Points where another acquaintance soon came into being. Based on an admiration for each other’s works, Louis soon struck up a new friendship with Zebra Katz during the course of last year. As a result the New York rapper featured Louis behind the decks in a series of live shows in the early part of 2013 and the pair are still in contact. I ask if collaboration is in the works and I am pleasantly surprised to find that this has already happened. “Yeah, we did one. It’s not under Visionist. I didn’t even know he was going to use it. It just appeared on the mixtape.” I am intrigued, but Louis keeps his cards close to his chest and doesn’t want to divulge any of the details of this collaboration. I threaten to try and find out which track it is. Ever the mysterious individual his retort offers no indication: “You probably wouldn’t. That’s the whole point. That’s why it’s under a different name.” I do however manage to confirm that it was on Zebra’s DRKLNG mixtape. There might be more of these in these to come too. “He’s asked me to do more things for him so we’ll see. If I can fit it in” I am not sure where he will find time for all for these exploits in what is to be another busy year for the producer.

He did however find time for Fatima Al Qadiri during this, his busiest year thus far. The pair collaborated on The Call, which featured on the I’m fine EP and definitely stands out as one of the more interesting collaborations this year. The beat less affair demonstrates the producer’s excellent command of harmony and melody that is often absent in similar artists. This collaboration apparently originated through a simple, well-timed request. “I asked when I decided to put this EP with Jamie on Lit City and I said, ‘I would love to write a track with her’. At that point she put me on as an artist to watch this year on Fact, so she agreed. As far as I know, I was the first to work with her. It was a back and forth thing and the final bit was done at mine while she was in London.”

It is however soon time for Visionist to take to that stage and I want to get an insight as to what I can expect from this set and maybe the near future. As a DJ he has been making his mark for a while now and his mixes are always energetic and eclectic, which reflects his own taste in music I am told. “I’ve just recently listened to both Oneothrix point never albums, Replica and R Plus 7, because someone said I sounded a bit like him, just from the vocal work I suppose. I’ve actually been listening to a lot of Trap Music. I like the energy of it. I think I play a lot of stuff that I’m into but it’s also a reference to where my music comes from. I play want I want to play.” I’m not surprised Oneothrix Point Never found its way into his playlist. It seems to have been referenced endlessly amongst producers recently, and I find that more electronic music artists have taken a preference to textured synth productions over beat orientated affairs as result. It’s a predilection that Louis definitely sees his Visionist productions observing too. “I’ve already done stuff like that. But I’m definitely looking into exploring further textures and melodies. I can’t announce it, but I’ve got the label I’m going to do all this for.” Always the mysteriously calm individual, he doesn’t want to go into of the specifics of this release, but does confirm it will be an album and it is set to be released next year, on a fairly left-field label. I look forward to the fruits of this and am assured that there are also a string of releases in between too. I leave him to prepare for his show and for what ever may come in the future for the Visionist. We never got to find out what was going on next door but I have no doubt that at least the Visionist’s mysteries will soon become public knowledge as he enters the limelight that unquestionably waits for him.